The obvious reason that anything truly fails is because there is no presence of God The Holy Spirit there to instruct and guide. It is God that causes a thing to be successful. He causes us to become successful, from His point of view, when we honor Him and follow His decrees. This short paper is an attempt to provide some practical observation as to what our situations will look like when we are following the leading of God The Holy Sprit.
There are many reasons that small organizations fail. A small organization can also mean our families, for in many ways the same principles that apply in organizations apply in families. And failure doesn’t mean that it no longer exists. Failure simply means that the organization isn’t fulfilling God’s design for positive results that will have a lasting impact for Christ. We can have materials possessions and still find ourselves in failure. Here are at least ten things that we all should have our focus on if we want to walk in the prosperity that Christ died on the cross for us to have. We don’t have to fail. This is especially clear as we consider that Christ’s #1 desire for us is our success – spiritually first and then in every other way.
1A. Lack of spiritual integrity. Wrong motives. Wrong focus. Religion vs. Relationship. No leading of The Holy Spirit.
1B. The math just doesn’t work. There is not enough people/money coming into the church to meet the financial demands on the ministry. This usually means that the pastor or a few individuals end up financing the ministry. It doesn’t take long for this ministry to burn out. To avoid this problem, go slow in any proposed expansion. Make sure you are already able to pay for any increased financial responsibility. Build an emergency fund. Tithe. Go slow and make sure that you are hearing from God. Pride goes before destruction.
2. Leaders who cannot get out of their own way. They may be stubborn, risk averse, conflict averse — meaning they need to be liked by everyone (even staff and volunteers who don’t do their jobs). They may be perfectionist, greedy, self-righteous, paranoid, ignorant or insecure. You get the idea. Sometimes, you can even tell these leaders the problem, and they will recognize that you are right — but continue to make the same mistakes over and over. They are more focused on the temporal than the eternal. There is a lack of true humility and understanding of who they are in Christ; not to mention a spirit of fear.
3. Out-of-control growth. This one might be the saddest of all reasons for failure — a successful ministry that is ruined by over-expansion. This would include moving into markets that are not as profitable, experiencing growing pains that damage the ministry, or borrowing too much money in an attempt to keep growth at a particular rate. Sometimes less is more.
4. Poor accounting. You cannot be in control of a ministry if you don’t know what is going on financially and spiritually. With bad numbers, or no numbers, a company is flying blind, and it happens all of the time. Why? For one thing, it is a common and disastrous misconception that an outside accounting firm hired primarily to do the taxes will keep watch over the business. In reality, that is the job of the chief financial officer, one of the many hats a pastor has to wear until a real one comes along or is hired. Have a budget and check it monthly. Make adjustments as needed for the health of the ministry. If you don’t know where the money is going, you are already on the brink of disaster. There must be accountability both financially and spiritually.
5. Lack of a cash cushion. If we have learned anything from previous recessions, it’s that business is cyclical and that bad things can and will happen over time — the loss of an important supporter or critical tither. These things, and more, can stress the finances of a ministry. If that ministry is already out of cash (and borrowing potentially), it may not be able to recover. Again, establish an emergency fund and tithe the ministry.
6. Operational mediocrity. I have never met a pastor who described his ministry as mediocre. But we can’t all be above average. No vision or mission that is discernable to members. Making decisions that move the ministry outside the context of the vision and mission. There is a lack of emotional maturity in leadership. There is little to no accountability. You will see very little if any leadership development training. Internally focused more than externally focused. Consistent attendance and giving, as well as member referrals are critical for most ministries. Look to do some degree of internal, if not external marketing. Use the resources that you have available.
7. Operational inefficiencies. Paying too much for rent, labor, and materials. Now more than ever, the lean ministries are at an advantage. Not having the tenacity or stomach to negotiate terms that are reflective of today’s economy may leave a ministry paying too much for needed services. Look to get and stay debt free as soon as possible.
8. Dysfunctional leadership. Lack of good operational management techniques: (communication, conflict resolution, budgeting, leadership development, planning, organization, problem solving, judgment, decision making, coaching,) and everything else that goes into good management. Throw fighting leaders or unhappy members into the mix and you have a disaster. Cast vision and mission every week to set the focus and direction of the ministry.
9. The lack of a succession plan. We’re talking nepotism, power struggles, significant players being replaced by people who are in over their heads — all reasons many ministries do not make it to the next generation. Look to give the ministry away. That means being intentional about finding your replacement and training them with all that you know. Do the same for every critical position in your organization. Remember, the ministry doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to God.
10. Not keeping up with technology. Don’t operate the ministry based upon the technology that you are comfortable with. Operate it based upon as much of the latest technology that you can afford that is appropriate for your audience. If you desire to attract the younger generations, technology will help get them into the room. The complete lack of technology screams out of date leader and out of date ministry.
11. The members don’t know where the money is going. Lack of transparency with money is one of the quickest ways to kill a ministry. People give voluntarily and deserve to know where the money is being spent. Make your budget available to all givers upon their request. Have an annual meeting where members can review and approve the organizational budget. Make needed improvements around the ministry, even to include positive cosmetic changes. It lets members see their donations in action.
If you incorporate these few tips into your ministry operations you will see the positive results and be well on your way to making more and more “raving fans”. Visit our website at www.HOWICP.org for more information on leadership, team and organizational development.